|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:1-15 Saul seems to have been quite at a loss, and unable to help himself. Those can never think themselves safe who see themselves out of God's protection. Now he sent for a priest and the ark. He hopes to make up matters with the Almighty by a partial reformation, as many do whose hearts are unhumbled and unchanged. Many love to have ministers who prophesy smooth things to them. Jonathan felt a Divine impulse and impression, putting him upon this bold adventure. God will direct the steps of those that acknowledge him in all their ways, and seek to him for direction, with full purpose of heart to follow his guidance. Sometimes we find most comfort in that which is least our own doing, and into which we have been led by the unexpected but well-observed turns of Divine providence. There was trembling in the host. It is called a trembling of God, signifying, not only a great trembling they could not resist, nor reason themselves out of, but that it came at once from the hand of God. He that made the heart, knows how to make it tremble.
Verse 14. - Within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow. The Hebrew for this long circumlocution is, "within about a half furrow of a yoke of land." The Septuagint translates, "with darts and slings and stones of the field," but the other versions give no support to this rendering. The Israelites, like most ancient nations, were accustomed to measure land by the quantity which a yoke of oxen could plough in a day, - something really less than an acre, - so that the A.V. gives the fight sense. When Jonathan made his attack, the garrison probably, not knowing bow few their assailants were, ran in confusion to the narrow tongue of land where the exit was, and getting in one another's way, were soon panic stricken and helpless.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the first slaughter which Jonathan and his armourbearer made was about twenty men,.... Or the first blow they struck, as the Targum, they killed about twenty men; that is, they did not stop smiting, but followed their blows so quickly, that in a very little time, as well as in a very small space of ground, so many were killed:
even within as it were an half acre of land, which a "yoke" of oxen might plough; that is, in one day; the word is used for a furrow, Psalm 129:3 and is supposed by some (p) to be the length of one furrow; but if so, it must be a circular furrow; so much ground was given to Horatius Cocles as could be ploughed round about in one day, for his brave opposition to Porsena, king of the Etruscans, when he endeavoured to restore the family of the Tarquins (q). This was a space of ground which the Romans call "actus", a measure of land one hundred and twenty feet square, which being doubled made an acre, called by them "jugerum", being as much as a yoke of oxen could plough in one day, as Pliny says (r); so that an acre was two hundred and forty feet long, and one hundred and twenty broad, and contained an area of 28,800 four square Roman feet; and this space here mentioned, which was half an acre, contained 14,400 Roman feet (s); and within this space of ground, without going any further, twenty men were killed, which struck a panic into the whole garrison and host, supposing there was a large army of men behind them coming on, as follows. The Septuagint version renders these words as representing the slaughter made "with darts, and the casts of stones, and flints of the field" (t).
(p) Vid. David. de Pomis Lexic. fol. 129. 1.((q) Aurel. Victor. de vir. illustr. c. 14. Liv. Hist. l. 2. c. 10. (r) Nat. Hist. l. 18. c. 3. Vid. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 20. (s) Vid. Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. p. 487. (t) See Dr. Kennicett's Dissertat. 1. p. 453.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14, 15. that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armour-bearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow—This was a very ancient mode of measurement, and it still subsists in the East. The men who saw them scrambling up the rock had been surprised and killed, and the spectacle of twenty corpses would suggest to others that they were attacked by a numerous force. The success of the adventure was aided by a panic that struck the enemy, produced both by the sudden surprise and the shock of an earthquake. The feat was begun and achieved by the faith of Jonathan, and the issue was of God.
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